Anisha Dossa Aibara, Co-founder and CEO, Jify
Image: Mexy Xavier; Assited by Hemal Patel
For Anisha Dossa Aibara, Jify didn’t happen in a jiffy. It took a little more than a decade. “I always knew the destination,” reckons the MBA graduate from London Business School, who started her professional stint as an investment banker with Axis Capital in 2010. “The day I joined, I was clear that eventually I have to start my venture,” she adds. Born into a family of entrepreneurs, Aibara was exposed to diverse and conflicting ideologies. Dinner table conversations usually veered around capitalism and social impact. Her mind grasped the best of all the worlds and figured out quite early that there has to be a sweet spot between impact and profitability.
As she grew up, she noticed there were a lot of highs and lows in the entrepreneurial journey, and her family, which had been into businesses for generations, lacked professional training to deal with the extreme vagaries of entrepreneurship. So she wanted to arm herself with essential skills before taking the plunge into the thrilling-but-iffy world of business.
The first step was Axis Capital, which gave the investment banker an insight into the field of M&As and IPOs. “I understood how money makes money,” she says. Call it serendipity, after a few years of rigorous training, Aibara landed in the world of impact investment.
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Dasra, a strategic philanthropy organisation, helped her work on the ground with communities and understand the ‘why’, ’when’ and ‘how’ of borrowing, and its impact on people’s lives. “I remember figuring out how to make financing viable for a ₹15,000 household toilet,” she recalls, adding that she worked extensively on sanitation projects. The stint taught her how to marry finance and impact. The future had multiple stops—Kae Capital, Credit Suisse, Actis, CDC Group and Bain—that gave her extensive exposure to all aspects of business. Aibara finally rolled out her maiden venture Jify in December 2021.
With Jify, she is taking a stab at fixing a long-term problem which has a ‘short-term’ genesis. Approximately 70 percent of India’s over 450 million workforce lives paycheck-to-paycheck, she says. As a result, they resort to high-cost emergency credit or payday loans, with high interest charges that at times are as high as 35 percent. The result is financial stress, which impacts their overall well-being. In fact, the workforce ends up seeing an erosion of 30 percent of income annually which adds up to an estimated $50 billion. “Short-term liquidity, which is a recurring need for many, kills you,” says Aibara. An earned wage access and employee financial benefit platform, Jify is trying to fix the problem, she adds.
Jify partners with companies to enable employees to access their earned salary on-demand. An employee at a partner company can log into Jify, view their accrued income and withdraw a portion of their salary for the days worked. The startup, underlines Aibara, solves for the liquidity mismatch across blue-collar, grey-collar and white-collar workers. “It has been a fairytale beginning,” she says, alluding to the brisk pace at which Jify has grown since December 2021.
The startup has signed over 100 corporate enterprises that have an employee base of over one million. Jify raised $10 million in its Series A funding in August last year, and counts Accel, Nexus Venture Partners and Sequoia among its backers. “There has been a repeat usage of 75 percent month-on-month,” claims Aibara. “It has been just a little over a year,” she says, explaining why sharing operating revenue of the venture would not be the right metric to judge it. Also read: Community capital: Tamanna Dhamija's double engine of Baby Destination and Convosight is running on full steam
Jify is already making a big impact, she underscores, and quickly points to another impact. More women are entering into the venture capital (VC) world. “It is impactful because the selection bias gets removed,” she says. Now you have other women, she lets on, who can relate to your circumstances and you as a woman founder.
Anand Datta, one of the VCs backing Jify, tells us what makes the founder special. “Anisha is right out there as a founder in the top cohort for us, woman or otherwise,” says the principal at Nexus Venture Partners.
She has had a stellar background, deep strategic mind and probably being a woman drives that extra bit of empathy in her which gives you an edge to think deeply on a product like earned wage access, he adds.
Datta reckons Jify has the potential to create a large impact. Earned wage access is a high pull, high engagement and high frequency use case. If the experience is right, this provides an opportunity to layer in multiple other financial products to the same customer. “This will enable Jify to cover each aspect of financial wellbeing of a customer,” he says.
The challenge, though, would be to execute well and add more products to the core. Aibara is aware of the ask, and the task. Jify doesn’t happen to be the first startup pioneering the concept of early wage access in India. “There have been people who’ve tried and failed,” she says. It’s quite similar to scores of ventures that failed before Swiggy made it big in the food delivery space, she adds. “As a team, we have a right to win,” she says ,with loads of conviction. In spite of working in male-dominated industries all her life, Aibara underlines, she never faced any gender bias. “I don’t want to be credited only because I’m a woman founder,” she says, adding that she doesn’t like to get bucketed. “I am a founder,” she signs off.
(This story appears in the 24 March, 2023 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)